Ranking 10 of Cricket's Greatest Opening Partnerships

Rob Lancaster@RobLancs79Featured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2016

Ranking 10 of Cricket's Greatest Opening Partnerships

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    Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge were a special pairing for West Indies.
    Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge were a special pairing for West Indies.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Successful opening partnerships can be like long-standing marriages—the two parties involved don't have to be peas in a pod to work perfectly together.

    Every good cricket team needs a solid platform to build on. Runs at the top of the order lay the foundations for future success, no matter how they are scored.

    Desmond Haynes was one half of a deadly double act for the West Indies, as he and Gordon Greenidge combined brilliantly to strike fear into opposing bowlers.

    But, where do the duo sit on the all-time list of first-wicket pairings?

    To mark Haynes' 60th birthday on Monday, Bleacher Report has ranked the best opening partnerships of all time. 

    The list includes combos who played in Test and limited-overs cricket, with those who prospered in both red and white-ball forms given extra prominence in the final standings. 

    As ever, your opinions are welcome—use the comments section to have your say on the top 10.

Honourable Mentions

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    Pakistan's pairing of Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar just narrowly missed out on the final list.
    Pakistan's pairing of Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar just narrowly missed out on the final list.Associated Press

    Limiting the rankings to just the top 10 made sure some stellar opening partnerships would miss out.

    Apologies to Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson, who averaged 60.94 batting together during a seven-year stretch for Australia from the 1961 onwards.

    Going back further through cricketing history, Sir Leonard Hutton and Cyril Washbrook was a Yorkshire-Lancashire alliance that got along just fine at the top of England's batting card.

    Sunil Gavaskar is one of India's all-time greats, and he found a reliable ally at Test level batting alongside Chetan Chauhan. They averaged 53.75 together in only 59 innings.

    Marcus Trescothick doesn't make the cut despite his successes with England captains Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss (who does happen to sneak inside the final list, just with someone else as his partner).

    Adam Gilchrist has also been selected—but not for his efforts batting alongside Mark Waugh in one-day internationals for Australia.

    There is no place for Pakistan's best opening option—Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar—either.

    Apologies to all those left out, but it is time to start the countdown.

10. Michael Slater and Mark Taylor

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    The first of three Australian pairings to appear in the top 10, Michael Slater and Mark Taylor managed 3,887 Test runs batting together at an average of 51.14.

    Taylor—a left-hander nicknamed Tubby—was not a slouch in terms of scoring rates, yet he would looked permanently stuck in neutral compared to his swashbuckling partner at the other end.

    Slater had a wonderful habit of demoralising opposing attacks before they had barely warmed up.

    Rob Smyth noted in the Guardian in a profile of the New South Welshman: "He gave bowlers the fear and made their chief weapon, the new ball, something to be dreaded rather than relished."

    The right-hander made a habit of getting out in the 90s (as in the score, not the decade) but was an all-action player when at the crease, even dancing down at seamers on occasions.

9. Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss

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    Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss provided stability at the top of England's order.
    Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss provided stability at the top of England's order.LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/Getty Images

    England captains Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss scored 4,711 Test runs together for England.

    Strauss had previously shared a successful partnership with another left-hander in Marcus Trescothick, yet his alliance with Cook was even more profitable.

    The duo sit as England's most productive opening partnership in the Test arena in terms of runs accumulated.

    Cook took over from his team-mate as skipper when Strauss hung up his batting gloves, though the search for a long-term replacement as an opener goes on.

    England have tried eight different partners alongside Cook since 2012.

8. Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden

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    Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were a formidable pair in one-day cricket.
    Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were a formidable pair in one-day cricket.GREG WOOD/Getty Images

    Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist made a fearsome double act at the top of Australia's batting order in one-day international cricket.

    From 2001 to 2008, they amassed 5,372 runs in 114 games together. It was all done in brutal fashion, as both were known for their ability to dominate opposing bowlers.

    Hayden was an opener by trade, but Gilchrist—a wicketkeeper-batsman—was promoted to the top of the order in 50-over cricket.

    The two left-handers were part of the Australian teams that won the Cricket World Cup in both 2003 and 2007, with Gilchrist hitting 149 in the final of the second tournament.

    Hayden was full of praise for Gilchrist when the latter announced his international retirement, per Reuters: "I feel incredibly privileged to have played with Adam for as long as I have. He's held the baggy green in his hand with great pride, great passion, great discipline and a great work ethic."

7. Sir Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe

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    Sir Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe may be low down the list for Test opening partnerships in terms of runs scored, but the two Englishmen averaged an astonishing 87.81 when batting together.

    The duo finished with 3,249 runs in Test cricket from just 38 innings between 1924 and 1930.

    They had 15 century partnerships, 11 of them against Ashes rivals Australia.

    Hobbs had already been part of a successful opening pairing prior to Sutcliffe's emergence, as he scored over 2,000 Test runs while batting alongside Wilfred Rhodes.

6. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar

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    Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly made life tough for opening bowlers in 50-over cricket
    Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly made life tough for opening bowlers in 50-over cricketAFP/Getty Images

    No opening partnership has scored more runs in one-day international cricket that Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar's tally of 6,609 for India—and it's not even close.

    The duo's alliance lasted for over a decade in 50-over cricket, which explains why they are so far clear at the top of the ODI run-scoring table.

    Tendulkar, of course, was a joy to watch at the crease. He had that rare ability of always appearing to have time to hit the ball wherever he wanted.

    While Ganguly wasn't quite so aesthetically pleasing, he was still extremely productive. A belligerent hitter, the left-hander liked to clear his front leg out the way to allow him to swing his heavy bat through the line.

    The two players were mainly used in the middle order during their Test careers, but their ODI opening alliance was a huge success for India.

5. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag

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    Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have been selected as India's top pairing in the list.

    The reason? Their production in two different forms of the game. The duo managed 4,412 Test runs together at an average of 52.52. 

    You can then add on the 1,870 ODI runs their partnership plundered for India, although Gambhir was also used for nearly a third of his limited-overs career at three in the batting order.

    Sehwag was a stroke-playing right-hander with wonderful hand-eye coordination. He did not move his feet too much, nor did he hang about in the middle.

    Gambhir's style was more classical, yet he meshed well with his batting partner, both on and off the field.

4. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer

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    Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer—the long and the short of it.
    Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer—the long and the short of it.Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden were the little and large double act who dominated for Australia.

    The two left-handers scored 5,655 Test runs together—only Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge have managed more as an opening partnership in the same format.

    While Hayden was a giant of a man who loved to drive off the front foot, Langer was the small guy with a big heart. He loved a scrap with any bowler—hardly surprising, considering he was a martial artist.

    Langer's first taste of Test cricket international cricket came batting at three, but he found his niche next to Hayden as part of a formidable opening duo for Australia's hugely successful side in the early and mid 2000s.

    Although they only played alongside each other in Test action (Hayden has already featured in the list with his ODI batting partner, Adam Gilchrist) their run-scoring achievements merit a place inside the top five.

3. Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith

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    Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith were a potent pair in all formats.
    Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith were a potent pair in all formats.MOUTON VAN ZYL/Associated Press

    Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith were a right-left combination for South Africa who scored their runs in contrasting styles.

    Gibbs always looked relaxed at the crease. He was a fearsome cutter and puller off the back foot, as well as the owner of a glorious front-foot cover drive, meaning bowlers had little margin for error.

    In contrast, Smith was a bottom-hand bully whose methods at the crease were ugly but mightily effective.

    Having landed the captaincy of his country at the age of 22, he also had to grow up on the job alongside Gibbs.

    Together, they managed 2,983 Test runs as an opening partnership in a six-year span, as well as another 3,007 in 50-over action for the Proteas.

2. Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya

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    Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya were chalk and cheese in terms of style.
    Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya were chalk and cheese in terms of style.ISHARA S.KODIKARA/Getty Images

    Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya were chalk and cheese in terms of style and scoring rate.

    The right-handed Atapattu was a nervy starter who was difficult to move once he settled at the crease. He scored six Test double hundreds in his career but was far from just a long-format specialist.

    However, when it came to limited-overs cricket, Jayasuriya was the star attraction.

    The left-hander was a power player who excelled at getting his country off to fast starts. He also formed a successful opening partnership with Romesh Kaluwitharana in 50-over cricket.

    Yet Atapattu and Jayasuriya added more runs in ODI action (3,382, compared to Jayasuriya's haul of 3,230 with Kaluwitharana) in far fewer matches together.

    They also managed 4,469 runs in Test action in a decade batting together, all the while proving there is more than one method to scoring runs at the highest level.

1. Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge

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    Haynes and Greenidge were a fearsome opening pairing, no matter what format of the game they were playing in.

    The duo combined to score 6,482 runs in Test cricket as part of a formidable West Indies side that became the dominant force in the world game.

    They were just as impressive in one-day cricket too, with their partnership yielding 5,150 runs at an average of 52.55.

    While Haynes—who played 116 Tests and 238 one-day internationals—was far from a traditional-style opener in terms of scoring slowly, he was often willing to play second fiddle to the aggressive Greenidge.

    Haynes and Greenidge opened in the West Indies team that won the 1979 Cricket World Cup at Lord's, while they were also part of the side from the Caribbean that were upset in the 1983 final by India.

    Their ability to score runs in all formats, combined with their longevity, means they deserve to sit on top of this list.

    How West Indies cricket must wish they could unearth another Haynes-Greenidge double act these days.

    All stats used in the slideshow were from ESPN Cricinfo.